A matryoshka nesting doll the size of a baby squats on the plastic tablecloth in center of Darya and Zoya’s kitchen table. The outside, at least, always has the same rough features – heavy brow, hooked nose, sarafan of coarse hair.
Its painted eyes follow Darya’s hands as she picks up the sheep’s knucklebone, roughly scored into a die ages ago. Tonight, Darya rolls first.
Darya unscrews the beast woman. Lifting off her upper half, inside she finds another strong-faced woman, but with less piercing eyes, a less pronounced jawline.
Darya unscrews and removes that one, revealing a smiling blond with ice blue eyes.
“Maybe matryoshka is happy tonight.” Darya forces a smile.
“Maybe.” Zoya spins the dolls to face her. “My turn, I suppose.”
Too fast. This is too fast.
Inside the smiling blond hides a woman with plump red woman with dark hair and knife-thin lips.
The next woman is sobbing, her mouth open, red and wide, cartoon blue tears on her cheeks.
Inside the crying woman is a grey haired crone, eyes closed with wrinkles.
“I’ve never seen those last two before.” Zoya shudders.
“Me either. But that’s just three.”
Zoya unscrews the old woman but the wood is swollen and the lid sticks. She tugs, tugs, and then shrieks as it gives way and she reveals the next layer. Red and glossy, a painting of human musculature, it’s as if Zoya had sloughed the old woman’s skin right off. She squeezes her eyes shut and, by tentative touch, spins the doll to face away.
As Darya looks at the horrible smiling doll, she starts to cry.
“What, what do you think is at the center this time?”
Zoya slides the bone across the table.
“Maybe it’s empty tonight.”
Originally posted at Race the Date #3, for the prompt “a risky game” (and inspired the city Kamchatka)